'I felt quite sick' - Manager Scott Maclachlan on his break-up with Lorde
Scott Maclachlan discovered Lorde at age 13 and managed her rise to stardom before they split a year ago. He still manages Sol3 Mio, Thomston, Mt Eden and Leisure and is up for Music Manager of the Year for the third time at this year's MMF awards.
• Scott Maclachlan was Lorde's manager from the age of 13 until last year, when she ended the relationship to manage herself. • In this revealing interview, he explains how Lorde broke the bad news to him, and says there are "ongoing legal issues". • He says he always thought Lorde would be great, "but I didn't realise how great, how quickly". • And he reveals Lorde turned down an invitation to perform at the White House when she was 17.
1. Lorde relieved you as her manager a year ago. Did you see it coming?
I think I realised when I got a phone call that Ella and her father were going to come into the office. You kind of have a sense, like a relationship break-up. It's that "we need to talk" conversation. I felt quite sick.
It was pretty clear she was unhappy with the way things were going for a bunch of reasons, which I can't talk about because there are ongoing legal issues that I don't want to compromise and she's not here to state her case. I felt very sympathetic to her and tried to make the process as easy as possible. She was quite upset and I gave her a cuddle and said, "Look, these things happen." It's a business relationship but the problem is you're so in each other's pockets it becomes a lot more personal. But I have no animosity.
2. How do you think Lorde has survived so far without a manager?
I think she's done really well. There's a lot to be said for the purity of her decision-making. Her instinct is incredible. The test will be when she releases her second album and she's got 28 countries asking her to do promos in three weeks. Managers in the industry a long time know the nuances of doing deals with people which on paper might not look beneficial but actually can get your artist a lot more mileage. It's difficult to swim against the tide 100 per cent of the time. It's all right when you're on the rise but if you're wobbling they can cut you loose.
3. What do you love best about being a music manager?
Management is addictive. If you sign an artist who becomes a success it's a gamble and a hustle but it's completely addictive. The most fun you have is in those early days when you get a break. The high-level parties are a lot less enjoyable. One of my career highlights was a recent tour with a band called Leisure staying in s****y hotels. It was back to square one after being with the Lorde circus and it was a real breath of fresh air.
4. How much do music managers get paid?
We charge 20 per cent across the board and that's non-negotiable. It's fair when you factor the amount of work and cost of overheads. After splitting with an artist, a residual ongoing payment is normal too.
5. You signed Lorde at 13 Were you under pressure to get her earning money?
No, there was no pressure from the label. We hadn't invested much at that stage. She was developing at her own pace but it wasn't until she worked with Joel (Little) that things really happened. I always believed she'd be great but I didn't realise how great, how quickly. Hearing Royals for the first time I knew we had a hit. Those ones come along once every five years.
6. You released Royals as a free digital download. Was that your idea or Ella's?
In those days it was very collaborative. We both have a disruptive gene. Thank goodness Adam Holt was head of Universal. I dread to think what sort of pressure he was under when we gave away 60,000 EPs but we were so off the radar here that no one was scrutinising what we were doing. Very quickly we had all these calls coming in from round the world and we both enjoyed saying no because we saw that as perpetuating the feeding frenzy. The toughest refusal was saying no to performing at the White House. I would've loved to shake Obama's hand but I'm 47. She was 17 with her whole life ahead of her.